Love, Loss, and Business: The Story of Rose Gold Co.
Lauren and I have been running Rose Gold Co. since 2019, but it is now much different from how it was when we first started. Lauren and I had been dating for about two years and had helped each other overcome a lot of hardships. When we first started Rose Gold Co., I had been working for my dad as a marketer for his geothermal A/C company, and Lauren was finishing school to do the same thing.
I worked full-time so that Lauren could focus on finishing college, an agreement we came up with. We just moved out of her mom's apartment and got a place of our own: a small but homey two-bedroom duplex. I was happy with my life, and I hoped Lauren was too, but I knew I was meant for much more. After working for my dad for about a year, I began designing T-shirts and selling them on Etsy. I didn't know what my niche was, or even what a niche was for that matter. I just made shirts based on ideas I liked. I did this for a few months, then I realized I had a very tiny business going. I made an extra $30 to $60 a month doing this.
I got excited and started re-evaluating my business and realized I was losing a lot of money the way I was conducting my business. The problem was I was just the designer. I delegated the printing, shipping, advertising, and web hosting to various companies. For every dollar I made, other companies were making several more. I knew something had to change.
I began researching the T-shirt business and began learning what it took to do everything I wanted on my own. After a brief few days on YouTube, I knew what I had to do. At this point, my relationship with my dad was a bit rocky. He did not accept my relationship with Lauren and really did not like the fact that I was dating a girl. Aside from that, I was around the age of 20 at the time, and I didn't always respect him or appreciate the things he did or sacrificed for me. I made some bad choices in my late teen years, and I really made my family suffer. I like to think of this time in our relationship as the probationary period.
I stayed later after work one day and began talking with my dad. Conversations with my dad were often about his business and the things he was doing or wanted to do. My dad is a very successful businessman who works harder than anyone I know. He rarely took vacation, and as a child, my mom did most of the heavy lifting as he was working so often.
We talked for a while about the current clients he has and the new equipment he wanted to buy, then I brought up my business. I told him about my structure and how I outsourced most of my products, then almost immediately, he diagnosed my business the same way it took me days to do. “You need to start making the shirts yourself,” he said attentively. I agreed with him, but I explained, “I’ve done the research, and I can't afford the equipment.”
“Well, how much do you need?” he asked with concern. My face lit up; my father is a very financially generous man when he’s in the right mood. “For the heat press, an order of shirts, heat transfer sheets, and the software, it's about $1,000” I winced as I said “One-thousand dollars.” At the time, that was an absurd amount of money to ask for. I barely made enough to pay rent for Lauren and me and feed our dogs, so money was tight. "Okay, I'll loan it to you," he said calmly. "Really?" I said, surprised. "You're like me, I know you can do it," he said. In the next few days, I was floating on air. I finally had a legitimate business! I shopped for the perfect, affordable heat press, sampled shirts, and made more designs than I ever had before.
Then it was time to come up with a name. I didn't want it to be cheesy, so I asked friends, family members, Lauren, and even the internet what to name my new business. Lauren suggested I name it something to honor my mother, Rose, who had passed away when I was 12 years old. I agreed and researched names for hours. Finally, it came to me: Rose Gold Co. The trendy iPhone color had made the color quite popular at the time, and I liked the sound of it. These days, I realize it's a bit hard to say, and I even get tongue-twisted, but I still love it.
Next, it was time to come up with a logo. Luckily, I had been teaching my girlfriend Photoshop while she was in school for marketing. Oh yeah, and she's one of the best artists of all time. We sat down and started conceptualizing the logo. "Well, who is the target audience?" she asked. She was deep in school at the time and was really into it. "Young, trendy people like you and me," I said, not knowing a clue about marketing or business. The answer was good enough for her, and she got down to sketching out logos on a notebook.
My youngest sister, at the time, was around 17 and had started driving. She would come to visit us all the time. She's one of the coolest, trendiest people I know, so I had to get her advice. "I like this one," she pointed out. "Oooh, and you should make your website like Fashion Nova; they're good." She pointed at a design that looked similar to a traditional tattoo. "I really like that one," I agreed. Lauren agreed as well, and she got to it. She was on Photoshop for hours, turning her sketch into the logo that it is today. Once we got the logo down, I built the website, which I was very good at, as that is why I got hired to be a marketer for my dad in the first place. Finally, everything was set up. "Okay, well, now I need models," I thought.
I called all my friends at the time and asked them if they would help me model the shirts I was making. So many people agreed, and they agreed to do it for free! People love having their picture taken. I got my photos done, uploaded them to my website, and started promoting like crazy on my Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook. A few sales rolled in, and a nice stream continued from Etsy, but I wasn't rolling in dough. In fact, I hadn't even made enough to pay my dad back, even with my new larger profit margins.
Feeling a bit down about my lack of sales, I pursued it anyway. By this time, June was around the corner, and Lauren and I decided we wanted to attend our first LGBT Pride parade. We started looking into it, and I decided I would make us shirts for the event. I thought about it further: why don't I sell pride shirts on my website and Etsy too? I got down to it, and my pride shirts were more popular than all my other shirts combined. This is it, I thought! I need to keep this going. Then it dawned on me: we should sell shirts at pride! I researched for hours on how to get in, how much it would cost, and how many shirts I should bring.
I spoke to the event planners on the phone and learned that it would cost $250 to enter as a vendor, which would also serve as a donation to the LGBT community. I called Lauren while at work, so excited about the news but concerned about the money. "What do you think?" I asked. She was in school, excited but also concerned. "Do you think we'll make it back?" "Heck yeah, I do! Sales have been happening like crazy," she said. "Screw it, let's do it!"
So, it was time to get to work. When the clock struck 5, I ran out of my dad's office and into a small room in a warehouse where he had let me set up my equipment. Lauren would meet me after school, and we made shirts for hours. We would stay until midnight some nights, go to bed, then do it over again, but finally, the time had come. Our first pride event was happening this Saturday, and we were through the roof with excitement. We borrowed Lauren's little brother's truck and packed up tubs upon tubs of rainbow shirts, hats, and flags. Dressed in our matching rainbow outfits, we headed off to Dallas Pride 2019.
When we got to the location, Fair Park in Dallas, where they host the state fair, I gave them our company name, Rose Gold Co., proudly. They let us in, and we parked in the vendor parking about a mile away from our booth. My dad let us borrow his dolly, and we loaded up the stacks of tubs full of shirts. The journey to the booth felt like forever, and we were so nervous. We dragged the many boxes of shirts on our dolly and finally made it to our booth. After several long trudges back and forth, we finally had everything there. We hung up the shirts we designed and set up our table and chairs. We hung our banner that I had ordered that had our name and logo on it. Finally, after organizing for what seemed like hours, it was finally time.
It was around 11 am, and not much was going on. Event organizers were running around like crazy, asking us if we had ordered chairs or tables, and a few stragglers walked by, looked at what we were selling, then kept moving. It was a bit discouraging, but we just waited. Finally, around noon, two girls walked up to our booth and went on about how cute our shirts were. They both bought one shirt, and Lauren and I started celebrating. "We did it, baby!" I yelled. After that, the floodgates let loose, and what felt like hundreds of people came up to our booth.
We sold out of two of our shirts within the first few hours, and Lauren and I were jumping for joy. We met all kinds of people there, which was my favorite part. We met friend groups of gay and straight people. We met lesbian moms and their children. We met boyfriend couples, girlfriend couples. We met furries; we met so many different kinds of people.
My favorite were the parents who wore "free mom hug" or "free dad hug" shirts, which really tugged at the heartstrings. It was really beautiful seeing supportive parents showing love for children and adults who do not have that kind of support in their lives.
One of my favorite interactions was with a middle-aged MTF (male to female) transgender woman. She made her way up to our booth and kind of scoffed at what we were selling. "So, how long have you been doing this?" she smirked as she ran her hands over a few shirts, as if she were testing the quality of our work. "We just started," I proudly said, feeling a bit strange about the interaction since she was the first trans person I had ever knowingly had a conversation with. "Do you have any trans stuff?" she asked. "We have flags," I said hopefully. "We are working to expand our inventory soon."
"Are you trans?" I asked, not knowing what to say.
"Yes!" she exclaimed. "You don't know how hard I've worked to become the person I am today," she said to me. "I got laser on my chin, face, and more. I have been thrown out, kicked, and had relationships end because of who I am." I didn't know what to say; I was stunned.
I admitted to her that I didn't know what trans people went through and that I was thankful for pride because it brought us together so I could see past my own ignorance. I asked her what I could do to be a better ally, and she said to just be kind. And we ended our exchange.
Because of her, I have so much more respect for the Trans community, and I will do my best to be an ally in every way I can. After that, the day went on the same. My little sister and one of my friends showed up to help out, and we continued to sell like crazy.
Suddenly, the sky got dark, and a once sunny day became cloudy and grey. It began to pour down buckets of rain, and the festival was over. Soaking wet, we gathered our now much lighter boxes and went back to the truck. We counted our money in the car and found that we had made about $2,000! We were so excited! I paid back my dad, paid Lauren for all her help, and didn't bother seeing how profitable or unprofitable we were. That night was a win. And it was a night that would change my life forever.